In roughly one month, the year of separation will be over and I imagine the divorce will be finalized. A few months ago, after months of no real contact, I decided that I’d spend a few hours every Saturday going through the house and cleaning it out, specifically looking for anything she’d left behind but also looking at the crap I’d been holding on to for no real reason. (“Just in case I need it one day” is usually my reason, but I really doubt the day will arrive when I need a fifth USB charging cable.) I thought I’d gotten it all after a few weeks of this, and after several runs to Salvation Army, but every so often I keep finding a little thing here and there, and several times throughout the entire process I’d look at whatever she’d left and wonder why she even kept it. Today, though, I had to go through this ritual one more time.
I just inherited a ton of power tools from my father. He’s alive, but they sold their house and the new place doesn’t have room for a workshop, so I laid claim to his entire woodshop. I needed to clear out space to house all of this, and the garage is the place they’re going to live. The garage, though, is the room I never really touched. Like most people in the South, I don’t use my garage to put a car in. It’s the room where all that stuff goes, in case you’ll need it one day. So I had to make some hard choices this morning on whether or not I really wanted to keep that stack of old IDE hard drives from old computers. Even after all the soul-searching and letting go of what is essentially trash, I did have some things I wanted to keep, and they needed to be moved at least until I could offload all the tools and find forever homes for all the things. That meant going into the guest room.
The guest room has been the room of procrastination. The room where I just threw shit that I didn’t want to deal with, didn’t want to think about, but also didn’t want to get rid of just yet. It’s the obvious choice of location to temporarily house some of the things I’d be moving today, but that meant I’d have to go through it. In doing so, though, I found more of her things. The guest room closet had twelve pillows in it. Why? I have the two pillows on my bed, there are two for the guest bed, and ten spare pillows. Now, I know that, in the event of a house party, some people may crash here, or sometimes more than two guests may want to spend a weekend, but ten seems excessive. Beneath those pillows was a bed comforter that I didn’t recognize. That doesn’t mean I’d never slept under it or it’d never been on the guest bed, it’s just that I don’t remember seeing it. And since the guest bed and my bed both have comforters on them, and the Winter comforters are accounted for, I’m not sure what this comforter’s place is. The same with the bedsheets I’d looked at months ago. Each bed had sheets on it, with one spare set, and then maybe a couple of extra spare sets. There are only two couches, so in my opinion there only needs to be two sets of spare sheets. It just goes to show that she and I think differently on matters like this. She wanted guests over, and I didn’t. That’s not to say I don’t want guests, but I don’t want a house full of them. Underneath the pillows and the comforter, though, was more.
There were Styrofoam peanuts all over the carpet, with a few smooshed up tote bags and a little sparkly purse wallet/phone holder(maybe?) and my original Rock Band drumsticks which I’d replaced when I couldn’t find them and a couple of boxes. The boxes were full of wedding stuff. Invitations, the little stickers you put on the envelopes to seal the invitations, these little cards we handed out at our engagement party, and all of them were blank because we didn’t go big, but you can’t order small. Now, the packing peanuts were certainly garbage. No amount of sentimentality would make them gazed upon with affection or fondness. The wedding stuff, maybe… but it’s blank. It’s not reusable. And there’s a ton of other wedding memorabilia in a big Rubbermaid container that’s from the actual day. There was a stack of sealed, unsent wedding invitations because we forgot to include a thing when stuffing envelopes the first time. I grinned when I went through some of the names on the envelopes, remembering our wedding and the people that were there, some of whom have died since. But in the end, I looked at all this stuff, this pile of memories, and thought “All of this is trash.”
I’ve always thought that I’ve never really been sentimental when it comes to objects. I don’t need an unsent wedding invitation to remind me of my dead cousin’s face. I don’t need a picture. I don’t need a thing in my hand to activate my brain. A thing might activate it unintentionally like today, but I don’t need it. But in doing an inventory, I’m lying to myself. I have a Garfield “Hang in there!” card from my father, which he sent to me at college and wrote his own words in during a hard time in my life. I have a receipt from a place that reminds me of a choice I made that sometimes I regret. I have a Thank You card from a couple, thanking me for being a supportive friend during a rough patch in their life. I have a hand-written letter from my future ex-wife. I have a painting of my dead dogs hanging on my living room wall. I’m about to collect a ton of watercolor painting that my mom painted from her house, and I’ll probably even hang them up. I also have a Christmas ornament, even though I hate Christmas and don’t even own a tree.
Most of all, though, I still have reminders in this house that make me stop and think of her, even though she probably doesn’t want me to, even if I probably don’t want to myself. Reminders of a handful of years that had some good times, but still fell short because I wasn’t able to let myself feel, wasn’t able to talk about my problems, wasn’t able to look someone in the eye and tell them the absolute, authentic truth of myself. I hate that I wasted her time. I hate that she relocated away from her family. I hate that I broke a part of her. I also think that it was necessary, on some level, to finally look at myself in the mirror and try to fix this broken man. I think therapy was a necessary thing, and I needed a shock to my life, needed to hit rock-bottom, to be able to consider it seriously. I think I’ve made a lot of progress in a year. My therapist told me near the end of our last session that I knew what was wrong all along, knew what I needed to do to fix it, and I can’t disagree with her. I’m sorry it took hurting someone else to make me finally take action, but I’m thankful that I’m taking that action now. I truly love myself for the first time in decades. To commemorate this, I’m saving one of these Styrofoam packing peanuts.